The Raiders coaching staff ran last year’s third and final rookie minicamp practice in Clemson gear. It was homage to their 2019 draft class, which contained three Tigers alums.
General manager Mike Mayock and coach Jon Gruden took edge rusher Clelin Ferrell in the first round, cornerback Trayvon Mullen in the second and receiver Hunter Renfrow in the fifth.
Those weren’t the only Raiders selections from a championship program, either. First-round running back Josh Jacobs came from Alabama and fourth-round tight end Foster Moreau played at LSU. Even first-round safety Johnathan Abram has SEC pedigree, playing for both Georgia and Mississippi State.
All told, six of the Raiders' nine picks last year came from Clemson, Alabama or the rest of the SEC.
Coincidence? Absolutely not.
The Raiders wanted character guys from winning programs, players used to success and the methods that earn it. Both are key traits in turning a franchise around. That’s why they ended up with so much talent from elite programs, Clemson and Alabama especially.
“Championship mindset is what we are after here,” Gruden said last May. “We are interested in guys that have won certainly. We are also more interested in winners. I got a real good feeling about all these players (from the 2019 draft class). They have a winning culture that they have grown up with. They have a competitive spirit that I admire, and to come from Clemson, or come from Alabama, or come from a championship program, at least they know what it’s like to be on top and how hard it is to get there.”
Listen and subscribe to the Raiders Talk Podcast:
The Clemson connection obviously stood out with the sheer volume, which also prompted the coaches to don purple and orange in honor of it.
“It will be a new tradition that we do every year,” Gruden said at the time. “I’ve got this to say about Clemson; you’ve got to watch all their tape because they are the best team in college football and they got a lot of good players at every position, and some of the underclassmen will keep us wearing that orange color next year I hope because they are loaded.”
[RELATED: NFL Draft 2020: Mike Mayock explains how Raiders view deep receiver class]
The 2019 BCS National Championship Game made an impression on the Raiders brass, and Mayock came away from that Levi’s Stadium contest impressed with a lot more players than just Ferrell, Jacobs, Mullen and Renfrow.
Several players who wowed in that game (and several games since) are available in this draft class, including Alabama receiver Jerry Jeudy, Clemson receiver Tee Higgins and Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell.
It’s quite possible the Raiders will go after players from top programs again this NFL draft, looking for more of what they got last year.